What Community Support Officers can and cannot do

What Community Support Officers can and cannot do

Community Support Officers (CSO) were first introduced to England and Wales in 2002. They are uniformed civilian police staff with a variety of powers. Their uniform is different to police constables and must be marked with 'PCSO' or 'CSO'. Furthermore, their uniform is usually blue and they will only carry a radio (some forces allow CSO's to carry handcuffs).

Their duties are non-confrontational and usually include patrolling, gathering intelligence, crowd control, directing traffic, issuing fixed penalty tickets, dealing with anti-social behaviour and minor offences. Whilst Community Support Officers assist police constables, they do not have the powers of a constable.

Community Support Officers do not have a power of arrest as a constable does and may only detain a suspect in certain circumstances and for a maximum of 30 minutes. The reason for detaining an individual may be to ascertain her name and address or until the arrival of a police constable.

A CSO can stop and question an individual but if they do so, then they must be in uniform. They may stop and ask for a name, a reason for being in an area and the intended destination, however, a person does not have to stop or answer these questions. More importantly, a CSO cannot lawfully stop and search an individual. Only a police officer has the legal power to stop and search an individual. Furthermore, a CSO cannot ask an individual to 'consent' to a search or require them to remove any of their clothing. Despite not having the same powers as a constable, a Community Support Officer has a duty to act in the same professional manner and to the same standards as a police officer: Failure to do so may result in disciplinary or criminal proceedings.

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